My favorite part of the holidays is the gifts.
Not for me, you understand, but picking out the perfect present for family, friends, colleagues and neighbors – that’s the best part of the season. My gift-giving is likely the closest I get to competitive sports; I sweat over it, and there’s sweet victory in a good gift given.
For the last several years, I’ve found that my summertime canning – the tomatoes, the green beans, the peaches – are perfect holiday gifts. A taste of summer, carefully preserved, is an excellent treat on a cold winter day.
This year, I failed — mainly because I had a baby over summer and spare time became a thing of the past. As such, I don’t have a single jar of peaches or canned tomatoes to wrap and offer up with a holiday card.
But just because I missed the harvest doesn’t mean that my friends and family won’t be getting home-preserved goodies. In fact, there are many perfect recipes – some sweet and some savory — ripe for canning and bringing to your holiday hosts and offering up as a thoughtful present. (Aforementioned friends and family, if you’re reading this, please act surprised when you open your gifts.)
Of course, as with all home-preservation, safety is paramount. No one needs to deal with botulism for the holidays. And take extra care when water-bath canning at high altitude – water boils at a lower temperature here, which means you need to process the jars longer.
Sheila Gains, a CSU Extension agent in Arapahoe County, said that the general rule of thumb for water-bath canning is that the original recipe is written for sea level.
“If it calls for less than 20 minutes of processing, you should add one minute extra per 1,000 feet above sea level. If the recipe calls for more than 20 minutes of processing time, add two extra minutes per every 1,000 feet above sea level,” Gains said.
And as a courtesy to your gift recipients, include a label with the ingredients, she said.
If you don’t do canning or are a little scared by the process, but still want to give gifts in a jar, you’re in luck. Gains is hosting a workshop for the Arapahoe County CSU Extension on Dec. 6 on how to make jarred food mixes like Country Chili Mix and Cranberry-Oatmeal Cooke Mix – no boiling water required.
Note: The water bath canning times for the recipes below have been adjusted for Denver altitude. If you live at a different elevation, you’ll have to calculate the correct processing time.
IF YOU GO:
Making Jarred Food Mixes – Perfect Holiday Gifts
Noon-1 p.m. and 5:30-6:30 p.m. Dec. 6 at the Arapahoe County CSU Extension office, 6934 S. Lima St., Suite B, Centennial. Attendees must register online at least two days before the selected workshop. There is a $5 non-refundable fee. For more information call 303-730-1920.
Register and learn more about the Arapahoe County CSU Extension at arapahoe.extension.colostate.edu/.
Carrot Cake Conserve
You will be the favorite dinner guest if you bring this to the party. Spread cream cheese on water crackers, top it with this sweet, sticky conserve and sprinkle with some toasted pecans for a seriously delicious deconstructed carrot cake. Be sure to use bottled lemon juice in this recipe; because carrots are a low-acid vegetable, the consistent acidity of bottled juice offers both safety and flavor. From “Naturally Sweet Food in Jars” by Marissa McClellan (Running Press, 2016). Makes 4 half-pint jars.
2 cups finely grated carrots
1 cup grated apple flesh
2 cups chopped pineapple
1¾ cups honey
½ cup bottled lemon juice
½ cup golden raisins
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
Prepare a boiling water bath and 4 half-pint jars.
In a low, wide, nonreactive pot, combine the carrot, apple, pineapple, honey, lemon juice, raisins, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. Stir well and place the pot over high heat, bring to a boil, then lower the heat to medium-high and cook, stirring often, for 35 to 40 minutes.
The conserve is done when the carrot has softened, the raisins have plumped up and the liquid in the pot has reduced to a thick syrup.
Remove the pan from the heat and stir for an additional minute, to help the conserve tighten up more.
Funnel the conserve into the prepared jars, leaving ½ inch of headspace. Wipe the rims, apply the lid and rings and process in a boiling water bath for 20 minutes.
Sweetened with maple syrup, this cranberry concoction retains its tartness and will stand up perfectly to slices of turkey. Or better yet, spread this on slices of crusty bread for those day-after-Thanksgiving turkey sandwiches. From “Naturally Sweet Food in Jars” by Marissa McClellan (Running Press, 2016). Makes 6 half-pint jars
3 pounds of fresh cranberries
4 cups of water
2 cups of pure maple syrup
3 tablespoons of bottled lemon juice
Wash the cranberries and place them in a low, wide, nonreactive pot. Add the water and place them over high heat. Bring to a boil and lower the heat to medium and simmer the berries for about 25 minutes. Once the majority of the berries have popped, remove the pot from the heat and let cool.
Fit a food mill with its finest screen and place it over a large bowl. Run the cooked cranberries through the food mill, about a third of them at a time. Process until all the pulp is in the bowl and all that’s left in the food mill are dry cranberry seeds and skins.
Pour the pulp back into the pot and add the maple syrup and lemon juice. Place the pot over high heat and bring to a boil. Cook at a vigorous boil, stirring regularly, until the butter thickens and has reduced by about a third. Cranberries are full of natural pectin, and while this won’t appear as thick as apple butter, after about 35 to 40 minutes it should be able to coat the back of a spoon and won’t be at all watery.
While the cranberry butter cooks, prepare a boiling water bath and 6 half-pint jars.
When the butter has finished cooking, remove the pot from the heat. Funnel the butter into the prepared jars, leaving ½-inch of headspace. Wipe the rims, apply the lids and rings, and process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes.
“Mellow but spicy pickled garlic is surprisingly easy to snack on out of the jar,” Liana Krissof writes in “Canning for a New Generation” (Abrams, 2016), “but you can also use them in salads, or chopped up in a vinaigrette or hummus, or tossed into a Dutch oven with a chuck roast destined for hours and hours of cooking.” Look for already peeled bags of garlic cloves, found in Korean grocery stores. Makes about 5 pint jars.
3 pounds peeled whole garlic cloves
6 cups distilled white vinegar (5 percent acidity)
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons pure kosher salt
Spices and/or dried herbs (see note)
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the garlic and blanch for 1 minute. Drain and set aside.
Prepare the jars and lids for water-bath canning.
In a non-reactive pot, combine the vinegar, sugar, and salt and bring just to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar and salt.
Put desired spices in the jars, then pack with the blanched garlic, leaving 1 inch of headspace at the top. Ladle the hot vinegar mixture into the jars, leaving ½ inch of headspace. Use a chopstick to remove air bubbles around the inside of each jar. Use a damp paper towel to wipe the rims of the jars, then put a flat lid and ring on each jar. Boil in water bath for 20 minutes.
Note: Be creative with spices, since just about anything goes with garlic. Spicy: In each pint jar, put 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, ½ teaspoon celery seeds, ½ teaspoon dried oregano, and 1 dried crushed red chile. Smoky: In each pint jar, put 1 teaspoon chipotle pepper flakes, ¼ teaspoon cumin seeds and 1 dried red chile. Too Hot: In each pint jar, put 1 fresh habanero or Scotch bonnet chile (split in half from the bottom almost to the stem). For the kids: In each pint jar, put 1 teaspoon celery seeds, ½ teaspoon fennel seeds and ½ teaspoon whole black peppercorns.
Spiced Pumpkin Butter
Jars of this sweetly spiced, maple syrup-infused fruit butter make a lovely hostess gift for a fall dinner party or holiday celebration. (Or keep it for yourself and try it on buckwheat pancakes.) From Better Homes & Gardens Can It! (Better Homes and Gardens Cooking, April 2012).
2 15-ounce cans pumpkin
1 1/4 cups pure maple syrup
1/2 cup apple juice
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
In a 5-quart heavy pot, combine pumpkin, maple syrup, apple juice, lemon juice, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Bring to a boil; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, about 25 minutes or until thickened, stirring often. (If it spatters, reduce heat more.)
Ladle hot pumpkin butter into hot, sterilized half-pint canning jars, leaving 1/2-inch head space. Cool for 30 minutes. Seal and label. (Note: We put sterilized lids and caps on and turned them upside down while hot to semi-seal the lids; still, since a traditional canning process isn’t recommended for this recipe, keep refrigerated or freeze.)
Store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week or transfer to freezer containers, leaving 1/2-inch head space, and freeze for up to 6 months. Makes about 4 half-pints.
The dark, sweet essences of blackberries taste wonderful simply spread on warm, fresh-from-the-oven biscuits. From Better Homes & Gardens Can It! (Better Homes and Gardens Cooking, April 2012).
4 cups blackberries
5 1/2 cups sugar
1 1.75-ounce package regular powdered fruit pectin
1 cup vintage port
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
Place the blackberries in an 8- to 10-quart heavy pot. Using a potato masher, crush the berries slightly. In a small bowl, combine 1/4 cup of the sugar and the pectin; gradually stir into the berries. Stir in port and cloves.
Bring to a full rolling boil, stirring constantly. Add the remaining 5 1/2 cups sugar. Return to a full rolling boil, stirring constantly. Boil, uncovered for 1 minute or until jam sheets off a metal spoon, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim off foam with metal spoon.
Ladle hot jam into hot, sterilized half-pint canning jars, leaving 1/4 inch head space. Wipe jar rims; adjust lids. (Any extra jam can be refrigerated for up to 2 weeks.)
Process filled jars in a boiling-water canner for 10 minutes (start timing when water returns to boiling). Remove jars from canner; cool on wire racks until set. Makes 6 half pints.